Moenchengladbach: Two-time defending champion Germany asserted itself with a 4-2 victory over France to claim the top spot in Group A at the Women`s World Cup on Tuesday.
Kerstin Garefrekes opened the scoring in the 25th minute, and Inka Grings scored in the 32nd. Halftime substitute Marie-Laure Delie pulled one back for France in the 56th.
France goalkeeper Berangere Sapowicz was ejected for bringing down Fatmire Bajramaj in the 65th, and Grings converted the resulting penalty kick.
Despite having only 10 players, France got back in it when defender Laura Georges scored from a corner kick in the 72nd in front of 45,867 fans at the sold-out Borussia Park. Celia Okoyino da Mbabi clinched the match when she scored in the 89th.
Both teams had already qualified for the quarterfinals, with only the order of the group to be decided. Germany will now play Japan, with France meeting England in the final eight.
Germany coach Silvia Neid opted to leave the tournament`s all-time leading scorer, Birgit Prinz, on the bench, with exciting winger Bajramaj starting instead.
"She was very agile, very active and she defended well," Neid said of Bajramaj. "Sometimes she missed the point of passing the ball to another player, but I`m really happy with her."
Da Mbabi sent a precise ball wide to Bajramaj in the 15th, but her shot from the right was easily dealt with by Sapowicz.
With both sides fielding attacking lineups, Germany began to dominate possession with quick passing and clever running. But simple mistakes betrayed a level of anxiety before the expectant crowd.
Germany`s pressure eventually paid off. Babett Peter`s floated free kick was met by the head of Garefrekes for her second goal of the tournament.
"I tried to get to the ball and it was so great to see it go in," Garefrekes said. "We knew we could play better and tonight we had fun."
France pushed forward in search of a response, earning a corner kick from which Germany scored in a smooth counterattack. Da Mbabi switched to attack with another wonderful pass to Grings. Her attempted return reached Simone Laudehr, whose perfect cross was headed past Sapowicz by Grings.
France coach Bruno Bini responded by bringing on Delie at halftime, and the striker scored from a corner kick shortly afterward.
Finnish referee Kirsi Heikkinen showed a straight red card to Sapowicz for fouling Bajramaj, who had broken free. Grings sent replacement goalkeeper Celine Deville the wrong way to restore Germany`s two-goal lead. But Georges scored soon after to give the French some hope of an unlikely comeback.
It didn`t happen.
"We`ve a very strong squad, but also some great individual players," da Mbabi said. "Now we`ve won the game, we`re 21 very happy people."